TESTIMONY: City Council Aging Committee Hearing on Funding for Core Aging Services

New York City Council
Committee on Aging, Council Member Margaret Chin, Chair
November 17, 2016

Thank you Chairwoman Chin and the Aging Committee for holding this hearing to discuss the importance of supporting core community based senior services.   Thank you also recognizing the valuable contributions senior centers, programs and agencies provide and how their work to engage the community makes New York a better place to age.   LiveOn NY also commends Chairwoman Chin for promoting FY2018 as the Year of the Senior.

LiveOn NY’s community-based aging services members have been on the front lines of serving the diverse population of older New Yorkers for many years.  They offer core senior services and programs funded through the Department for the Aging  (DFTA) that directly promote social interaction and prevent isolation. Programs funded by DFTA are the only long-term care services available for elderly New Yorkers above the Medicaid level.  These services are most often the only safety net for low income seniors.

Inexcusably, the funding allocated to DFTA for aging programs year after year does not reflect the reality of the needs of New York City’s seniors or their caregivers.  Investing in these core programs is vital to the health of our city.  Further, investing in salary parity for all senior services programs is necessary to sustain this vital system.  Thus, LiveOn NY respectfully submits this testimony to highlight the need and importance of full funding baselined core senior services to adequate address the current, unmet and future need of seniors and their caregivers

The City Must Provide a Fair Share of Baselined Funding Core Senior Services
LiveOn NY has strongly advocated year after year for baselined funding for culturally competent neighborhood based services to allow agencies on the front lines to serve the diverse population of older New Yorkers.  These core services, many of them accessed through the city’s network of 250 senior centers, are vital in preventing isolation and also addressing mental and physical health issues, as reported in a recent DFTA and Fordham University study by Manoj Pardasani and Cathy Berkman titled Senior Center Evaluation Report.

Core Senior Services include:

  • Elder Abuse Victims Assistance
  • Adult Day Services
  • Social Workers in Senior Centers and Senior Housing buildings
  • Senior Center rent (space)
  • Transportation
  • 6th weekend congregate meal
  • Neighborhood Senior Centers and Innovative Senior Centers
  • Case Management
  • Home Care
  • Caregiver Supports
  • Per meal reimbursements
  • NORCs

While we appreciate salary parity reached for case management agencies, it is time to also bring salaries into line for all workers in the aging network. The workforce is comprised largely of women of color, immigrants and other low income workers. As the Mayor leads the way to equality in this city, those on the front lines every day assisting older adults should get their fair share of salary parity.

There are two pressing issues that have plagued the delivery of these core senior services.  First, funding for core senior services hasn’t kept pace with demand and inflation for many years.  The question is not if, but when will the Administration adequately fund core senior services and allocate seniors their Fair Share of the city budget.  Seniors have been waiting long enough. There have been waiting lists for case management and home care for well over a decade. Adult day services funding, $2.3 million at the time, was eliminated almost a decade ago. Through advocacy we’ve scratched back only $950,000, all City Council discretionary money. The administration actually cut $600,000 in adult day money a few years ago. Funding for NORCs has not kept pace for many years. Last year, we began advocating for $4 million for caregiver supports. We won zero. It is clear that there is still a mountain to climb to get traction within the administration to fund actual waiting lists and other critical aging services. Through our Fair Share Budget Campaign, LiveOn NY questions why this is the situation given the demographic shift going on in our city. 

As noted a letter to Mayor de Blasio on May 26, 2016 during the FY17 budget process and which was signed by a large number of City Council Members under the leadership of Council Members Chin and Vallone, while the elderly population is the fastest growing demographic in New York City, DFTA’s budget in FY16 was less than one-half of 1 percent of the City’s $78.5 billion adopted budget.  Additionally, DFTA receives only 2% of all human services funding. Current resources do not allow senior services staff to connect with the broad array and ever changing immigrant groups and other diverse populations.  It also does not allow them to even come close to addressing the unmet need.

Specifically relating to funding for Neighborhood Senior Centers, as reported in LiveOn NY’s 2010 Senior Center study, senior centers are grossly underfunded.  In that report, LiveOn NY recommended a budget of $750,000  to be the starting point from which to consider the bottom line budgets based on size for each senior center, which is a recommendation that could be prorated on the size of the center, plus meeting the rental needs.  Both Neighborhood Senior Centers and all Innovative Senior Centers must be funded to keep pace with the growing needs of older adults. 

The second pressing issue plaguing senior services is the Administration’s repeated failure to baseline core senior services.  The lack of investment seniors through baselined funding requires City Council step in to close funding gaps for core senior programs, program after program, year after year. The Administration’s repeated failure to baseline core senior services also results in an unstable and unsustainable network struggling to address the current, unmet and growing need for these vital core services.  The lack of baselining has led to loss of services, late receipt of funds, and an inability to plan, directly hurting seniors and caregivers.  This is evident by the repeated accruing waitlists in services such as Case Management and Home Care.  No senior should languish on a waitlist for services.  Waitlists for core senior services as an accepted practice must end.  It is far past time for the Administration to adequately baseline funding for core senior services so that we can all work together to make New York a better place to age.